Encouragement, Coaching and Prompts for Writers
A monthly blog by Eve West Bessier, Poet Laureate of Silver City and Grant County, New Mexico
The word horticulturist applies to someone skilled in growing plants and knowledgeable about caring for their health and vibrance. Horticulture comes from the Latin words hortus, meaning garden; and cultura, meaning cultivation.
I’ve just created a new word, wordiculturist. I am using it to define someone skilled in growing a garden of words and caring for their health and vibrance!
Being a horticulturist takes an elegant balance of vision, grunt work, diligence and patience. Being a wordiculturist takes a balance of each of these as well, especially diligence and patience. Exquisite vision and sweat equity will only take you so far.
Granted, words are less fragile than plants. They can handle a lack of watering or sunlight for longer stretches, but leaving them in a box under the bed or in a tucked away file folder on the computer desktop for too long can stunt them, or outright kill their will to thrive. We need to tend our words as carefully as we tend our gardens.
Lets carry this gardening analogy a bit further into the writing process and see how we can create and perpetuate a thriving garden of words.
Let’s start by looking at poetry. We can think of individual poems as flowers. The seeds of some poems need a long time to germinate before showing up above ground. Other poems are like the tulip or hyacinth, which burst out of their bulbs with gusto when conditions are just right. Some poems are wildflowers that volunteer into the garden as an improvisational free form expression.
As wordiculturist, we can welcome all types of flowers into our written garden, make certain each has enough water and light to prosper. Once they are in full bloom, we can create amazing bouquets and stunning arrangements of them to show off their varied colors and shapes in collections between the front and back covers of books or on display at open mics in coffee houses.
Short stories are like ornamental shrubs that need considerable attention and pruning in order to make their strongest statements. A collection of short fiction is like a topiary garden in which each shrub is carefully shaped to express its own character and meaning, while adding to the overall ambiance of the larger garden which readers can traverse at their own pace along a well-designed pathway.
Essays are like fresh herbs. They can be pungent and slightly bitter, sweet and delicate, or invigoratingly spicy. Their purpose is to awaken the senses and to be thought provoking. Essays can enhance the flavors of everyday life even as herbs enhance the flavors of everyday meals.
Memoirs are the fruits and vegetables of the garden. They nourish us from the rich soil of life experience. They preserve personal and familial history. Memoirs require a strong dose of discipline to grow because they can become two-ton zucchinis if we’re not careful. They can also become the bumper crop of tomatoes that need to be given away or canned posthaste. A well-tended memoir requires some chicken wire fencing, some raised beds of composted soil, and a whole lot of regular weeding. You can’t let this garden run amuck!
The novel in the garden requires a new word, arboriculture which refers to the cultivation of trees and technically also includes scrubs. Short stories are like mini-novels after all. Novels require even more vision, grunt work, diligence and patience than the other genres of writing. They can be saplings for a long time before growing the extensive root system they need to become trees. They can also branch out so quickly that they need to be pruned before they hit Moby Dick length. They often have stages of growth and stages of dormancy, and can take decades to fully mature. Novellas fall between short stories and novels. They are a type of bonsai pine that takes the short story beyond its usual length but doesn’t require the girth or height of the novel tree. But remember that bonsai pines take a special kind of care and artistry to grow. They are exquisite miniatures of their full grown species. They are not to be confused with novels that the author simply couldn’t complete!
Whatever kind of wordiculturist you may be, remember to water your words regularly, pull out the choking weeds of procrastination, prune away non-productive branches, watch for aphids on your roses, those pesky doubts and insecurities! If you are willing to be a diligent wordiculturist, your garden of words will thrive!
A year-round thriving garden always has something new sprouting as something older fades away. Keep planting fresh seeds, even while nurturing young sprouting plants and maintaining the health of more mature plants. It’s a juggling act and requires careful attention.
Maybe your garden is a secret garden and you only grow your words for your own enjoyment. That’s wonderful. Maybe you enjoy inviting friends to see what’s in bloom this month. That’s marvelous too. Maybe your garden feeds and delights a larger community, even a nation or two. How exciting!
Whatever type of wordiculturist you are or aspire to be, remember your best tools are always love and stick-to-it-iveness!
Here’s a writing prompt for this month. Be a wordiculturist by describing the work of an horticulturist. Write a poem or short piece of prose that takes place in a garden; the earthly variety with plants, flowers, shrubs, trees, butterflies and bees. It can be simply a detailed portrait of the garden itself, or it can be about something that occurs in a garden but also includes lots of details about the actual garden. Don’t be afraid to get some dirt under your nails and see eye-to-eye with a pillbug.
Scroll down to About The Author for more information and check out Eve’s website at: www.jazzpoeteve.com.